Archives for the month of: January, 2014

The Metro tile: ubiquitous wall decor for any Scandi-chic kitchen, or retro bathroom, or pretty much any other style in between. This handy little brick-shaped slip of ceramic has stacked itself neatly into thousands of well-appointed homes, and love for its understated simplicity does not seem to be abating any time soon.

A few years ago, in the first forays, you mainly saw them bravely displayed with industrial rawness, alongside austere metalworks and stark monochromes.

From Remodelista blog, industrial style bathroom

From Remodelista blog, industrial style bathroom

Since then, we have softened and warmed their settings, with woods and colours, making the most of their unobtrusive blankness to provide a backdrop to a thousand different styles. Essentially, these are neutral, easy-to-clean brick walls. Familiar pattern, simple elegance.

It is natural, then, to declare that your splashback or bathroom scheme will be ‘metro tiles,’ but this is in fact still quite a long way from a decision. Thankfully I have stepped up to this job and done the research for you, so you can read this and simply go ahead and order.

If the bevelled edges of the original Paris Metro are still your dream, then take a look at Topps Tiles Metro White at £23 a box (covers a square metre) full of 20cm by 10cm tiles.

Topps Tiles White Metro, bevelled jewels in a kitchen

Topps Tiles White Metro, bevelled jewels in a kitchen

Or instead, if you visit the branch I do, you could pop next door to Al Murad. They come in at 20cm by 10cm and will set you back only £14.99 per metre. Choose between a plain and simple matte finish or a more reflective gloss.

Matte or gloss: choices abound

Matte or gloss: choices abound

Al Murad's version is comparable but competes on price

Al Murad’s version is comparable but wins on price

Online stores also offer cheaper versions (Tile HQ are selling at a price-busting £9.22 per metre at the moment…).

You may however have a desire for a flat and minimal effect, but keeping the brick design. Fired Earth have some inspirational examples of both the bevelled and the flat in their Retro Metro range. The flat are slightly smaller at 15cm by 7.5cm: the white is called South Kensington and demanding high-end prices at (a currently reduced) £63.73 per metre. The glaze is crackled and adds to a vintage vibe, and I have no doubt these would look stunning in most settings.

Fired Earth's wall-warming selection of seasonal colours

Fired Earth’s wall-warming selection of seasonal colours

This flatter version was the style of tiles my friend Emma wanted for her kitchen. After she described it to me, I found a useful picture on the front of my trusty Living Etc magazine which confirmed the overall look.

Metro-clad kitchen graces Living Etc's front cover

Metro-clad kitchen graces Living Etc’s front cover

I went searching and came up with Walls and Floors’ White Chapel Tiles at a cool £19.75 per metre. They are gloss and flat little tiles, simple and perfect to cover any wall.

Walls and Floors' White Chapel tile

Walls and Floors’ White Chapel tile

We appointed our builder and I chose the grout. The details on a little job like retiling make a huge difference. While tiles are for the most part good tempered and wipeable, the grainy material between is quite another story. Inevitably white turns to a brownish sludge at best, at worst becomes patched with orange or green.

What lovely white grout gleams from this photoshoot/ Original Source's Metro tiles set in pristine conditions

What lovely white grout gleams from this photoshoot/ Original Source’s Metro tiles set in pristine conditions

Most tile retailers offer a massive selection of antibacterial grouts and cleaning solutions, but in fact current trends work in our favour here. Grey is, as we’ve seen, most definitely colour of the moment, and between the tiles is no exception. The shade does define the tiles more, like a subtle web of pencil outlines, but where the little accidents of life occur — the blender rebels riotously over the walls, a kids’ biscuit-icing session goes off-piste, spatters of tomato paste make their livid way inexorably onto every surface you ever had — you have a forgiving base to which you can return with a wipe of a cloth. So BAL’s Micromax Smoke it was.

Save yourself a job: BAL grout in Smoke

Save yourself a job: BAL grout in Smoke

Emma’s kitchen was a little dark between cupboards before — you can just about see the moss-green tiling scheme in these pictures:

Before: Emma's greenish wals....

Before: Emma’s greenish walls…

But now the perky little metro tiles have been fitted, this space is bright and fresh.

After -- a light and bright space

…and after: a light and bright space

And in the evening cosy lighting

In the evening, cosy lighting

She was so happy with it that she styled a photoshoot in it for a new favourite range of homeware. Check it out on her blog here.

Meanwhile, on a roll, I have continued to clock how these little tiles are being used in new and exciting ways. I think my favourite variation on the theme so far has to be these marble brick tiles from Original Style. Stockists are dotted around the country and you’d need to contact them for prices, but what a great combination:

Delicately veined marble brick tiles give a translucent glow to this bathroom/ Original Style

Delicately veined marble brick tiles give a translucent glow to this bathroom/ Original Style Viano White Honed Bevel Marble

I suspect that the little brick tile is only just getting started. Materials and treatments will be expanded this year, and I can’t wait to find out how.

I had a great week last week setting up a friend’s kitchen makeover. I can show you photos, we’re both really pleased with how it turned out — more on that very soon. But it almost didn’t happen at all.

As we chatted before Christmas, she admitted that she’d love a change in her kitchen, but that it would probably cost too much, she couldn’t bear the hassle and simply didn’t have time. Working full time, with a family and many other pressing commitments besides, the prospect of wading through product research, builder-selecting and overseeing a project was an incredibly unattractive one. So we talked through what she’d like, ideally, and what would induce her to go ahead. And as we discussed it, I realised that a lot of people feel the same about making changes to their homes.

I know the look I want but I don’t know how to get it

Sometimes you know exactly what you want done to your kitchen.

Plywood stars in House OM designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects, photo by Iwan Baan

Plywood stars in House OM designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects, photo by Iwan Baan

You have seen the perfect bathroom in a magazine, and you only wish you could snap your fingers and have it.

Going for gold: who said we had to stop at the taps?/ Lasa Idea Catalogue Collections 2014

Going for gold: who said we had to stop at the taps?/ Lasa Idea Catalogue Collections 2014

You might know that you like a certain style: ‘I live in a Victorian house so I would like to have classic styling in my bathrooms.’

Country house bathroom featured in Homes and Gardens

Country house bathroom featured in Homes and Gardens

Maybe it is simply that you prefer things sleek and don’t want to have all your cookware on show.

What do you mean, it'll all change when we have kids? Segmento kitchen from Poggenpohl boasts unadorned minimalism

What do you mean, it’ll all change when we have kids? Segmento kitchen from Poggenpohl boasts unadorned minimalism

It’s a big jump from these statements to finding the right products, at the best prices, to fit in your rooms. Wouldn’t it be good if there was someone who knew exactly where to look for the special deals, could discuss the pros and cons of different items, and could ensure that everything fitted together properly?

I don’t know a trustworthy tradesman

Sadly cowboy builders are not unheard of. Most people can recount horror stories of jobs left half done or how poor fitting led to leaky ceilings, wonky cabinetry or worse. But there are plenty of fantastic craftsmen out there who work hard, and create beautiful homes. A good professional recommendation is so valuable.

I don’t have the time to get quotes, let builders in, keep an eye on the work done, or ensure that everything is done properly

If you are working and/or out of the house in the daytime, a simple building job can be a huge pressure. You need the time to talk through the job and get quotes, then be ‘on site’ throughout to check on progress, and keep works on track and to schedule. Imagine if someone took all these pressures out of your hands!

I’m not the sort of person who has an interior designer

Most people think of an interior designer as someone who swans about in houses making airy decisions about fabrics, colour ways or recommending expensive luxury furniture. They seem the preserve of the rich, not those with limited budgets seeking practical solutions.

In fact, if you recognise some or all of the sentiments I’ve mentioned above, it’s almost certain that you can save your time, money and stress by employing someone to take these jobs on for you. Sourcing, tendering and project management are all areas of building work that are often bewildering and exhausting. It is not surprising that most people are nervous to undertake new projects, but if they could save on the cost of products, have peace of mind on their choice of builder, and not get embroiled in the minutiae of the job, maybe they’d feel differently.

So if you’d like to spend less, not more, you probably need to come to stowed for some skinterior design.

A few weeks ago, I read a blog post on sfgirlbybay (written by Victoria Smith, blogger, stylist, photographer) about wire chairs.  I liked the gracefulness of their thin curved black metal skeletons, placed strategically in rooms full of wood and white: have a look at the post here.

Then, I happened to pop into the spare bedroom a few times over the Christmas break (we were hotel-busy!), and noticed that our term-time lodger Rose had bought a cool black wire waste paper basket. It suits the spare room very well, bringing a touch of definition to the neutrals that we have in there already. If you need a reminder of the colours, pop over here for a moment: what do you think? I am now on the lookout for a few more black accents. Even more excitingly, she bought the bin from our old friend Mega Pound, so it looks like I won’t even need to save up.

Anyway, in the meantime, what should appear in the pages of Living Etc, but more subtly framed items in wire. They are not bold, they don’t stand out, but they do add an outline to a pale space, a bit like a sketch that has not yet been coloured in.

Another bin. Fits beautifully in the office space.

Another bin. Fits beautifully in the office space

Bin... or is it a laundry basket? Now there is an idea.

Bin… or is it a laundry basket? Now there is another idea

People are using the structures for coffee tables too:

Mesh Locker side table in copper -- this comes with a glass top should you not want to leave your wine glass balancing to chance/ Bowles and Bowles

Mesh Locker side table in copper — this comes with a glass top should you prefer not to balance your wine precariously all evening/ Bowles and Bowles

These mirrors have a vintage charm:

Sun's rays radiate from your reflection....

Sun’s rays radiate from your reflection….

I have to admit this next example didn’t work for us: our wire fruit bowl left ridges in the apples. It is pretty though. Maybe you could keep something un-bruisable in it.

Latticed fruit bowl

Latticed bowl with imaginary fruit

And finally, the chairs.

The classic Harry Bertoia chair.

The classic Harry Bertoia chair

It’s a lovely design, but you’d want to be wearing long trousers for any lengthy seating experience. I fear I could be more pro-wire-chair in the winter months, unless it’s possible to develop a simultaneous fashion for the imprinted leg pattern look. Or maybe the summer brings an opportunity to invest in soft cushions:

Cloud-topped wire chair.... a softer way to ride this trend

Cloud-topped wire chair…. a softer way to ride this trend

Wholesome green padding on the Fifty chair from Dogg and Arnved at Ligne et Rosset

Wholesome green padding on the Fifty chair from Dogg and Arnved at Ligne et Rosset

Tricia Guild has had hers painted green:

Like a delicate plant, lime-coloured wire chair amongst the flowers

Like a delicate plant, lime-coloured wire chair amongst the flowers

Let me know if you’ve considered any of these options: could you live with wire chairs? Or are they purely a triumph of form over function?

A flash, a cloud of smoke, and the villain/fairy disappears/reappears. Pouf! In honour of the last gasps of the panto season, I bring you a piece of furniture which has crept back into our living rooms over the past few years, since being banished as grubby and tasteless in its earlier, mock-leather-bound, carpet-slipper-bearing, lumpish incarnation.

The pouf now comes resplendent in textiles and textures as varied as we dare to use, and stands bold in minimalist and eclectically-furnished rooms alike as a showcase of colour or pattern.

I was given a magazine subscription for Living Etc for Christmas, which I’m so excited about. We used to subscribe until about June last year, then it lapsed, and I’ve missed following all the innovations and inspirations. Opening up the December issue I clocked lots of little trends and ideas, which I’ll point out to you in the next few weeks, but none as pervasive as the number of perky poufs to be found in the house tours.

Chevron pouf in orange from anitascasa on etsy

Chevron pouf in orange from anitascasa on etsy

Tori Murphy's Elca and Broadway poufs

Tori Murphy’s Elca and Broadway poufs

The striking geometric fabrics are fun and lively: no faded or jaded offerings here.

Zig Zig pouf cover from Rosenhof Art Factory

Zig Zig pouf cover from Rosenhof Art Factory

Missoni pouf from Target

Missoni pouf from Target

But other fabrics are about too – the wholesome knit is always popular:

Take a leaf from Next's book and call your pouf a pod

Take a leaf from Next’s book and call your pouf a pod

The supremely comfortable furniture store Loaf initiated a huge spin-off market for crocheted and knitted poufs, with their Bug range:

Suitable for feet, bums or as a launch pad: Loaf's bug pouf

Suitable for feet, bums… or as a launch pad: the self-advertised properties of Loaf’s Bug

I’ve been on the watch for something footstool-like for our own living room, and was dabbling with a ‘Morroccan ottoman’ search tag on eBay for a while last year.

Most recently I’ve found the US online shop VivaTerra which has sourced these environmentally-influenced creations:

Felt soft: poufs posing as rocks from VivaTerra

Felt soft: poufs posing as rocks from VivaTerra

And this pebbly perch:

Essence of beach in a seat, only softer/ VivaTerra's Soft Stone Pouf

Essence of beach in a seat/ VivaTerra’s Soft Stone Pouf

The grey colour schemes of the VivaTerra pieces, bringing an incongruous ‘outside-inside’ humour to a room, really appeal to me. I think they’d fit beautifully in our living room both in both shade and character.

How about you? Do you have a pouf-sized absence in your home? Which style works for you?

Hi there, stowed followers: guest blogger Lotus here today with some feline wisdom on surviving the guest season.

We have had many visitors to stay over the past few unsettling weeks; a tree was brought in from the outside; there were ribbons, roast meats (none for me, I discovered) and more wrapping paper than even I could possibly shred.

I have endured the attention and unprovoked cuddles with admirable fortitude, but one of the greatest challenges I faced was the mindless occupation of all my favourite nap spots. Kitchen sofa: taken. Kitchen armchair: taken. Living room sofas: taken. Even the small spinning desk chair with a comfy seat: taken. I have had to rely on my wits and my ingenuity, and can now give you a handy list of alternative rest spots for the displaced cat.

Number One: the kitchen stools. Close enough to the sink to observe all manner of interesting things going on, and yet innocently far enough away from the worktop not to invoke the wrath of the water spray.

I can't believe I haven't discovered this one before, it suits me so well

I can’t believe I haven’t discovered this one before, it suits me so well

The proud statement position: my pedestal

The proud statement position: my pedestal

A disapproving frown may free up some sofa space, if you have discerning humans. I don't

A disapproving frown may free up some sofa space, if you have discerning humans. I don’t

Number Two: the bin. I know, it’s a precarious, sloping position to maintain for long, but what it lacks in comfort it more than makes up for in pathos.

A subtle reference to what you feel you have been reduced to. Sadly subtlety rarely works on humans

A subtle reference to what you feel you have been reduced to. Sadly subtlety rarely works on humans

A soulful pose could go some way to expressing your annoyance

A soulful pose could go some way to expressing your annoyance

Failing that, a hard probing stare to induce guilt

Failing that, a hard probing stare to induce guilt

I call this one "La Miserable"

I call this one “La Miserable”

Number Three: the garden fence. For when there are more small children than is fair or advisable.

Sitting on the fence is apparently a human position of indecision. Find an appropriately spiky and uncomfortable fence and you may portray an attitude of resolve and stoicism

Sitting on the fence is apparently a human position of indecision. Find an appropriately spiky and uncomfortable fence and you may instead portray an attitude of resolve and stoicism

Number Four: a soft toy ‘bed.’ Looks so perfect, but not without its pitfalls.

Beware the frivolity of the season. When you do finally secure a comfortable space....

Beware the frivolity of the season. When you do finally secure a comfortable space….

....you can be sure that someone will tuck a soft toy under your paw and label you "cute"

….you can be sure that someone will tuck a soft toy under your paw and label you “cute”

Do not despair. You can take it out on the soft toy later

Do not despair. You can take it out on the soft toy later

Thanks for having me on the blog, stowed! I’d love to come back some time to impart more helpful advice to your readers.

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